21 May 2012

Prosperity and Happiness

James Anthony Froude in The Times of Erasmus and Luther (Lecture III), from Short Studies on Great Subjects (London: Longmans Green & Co., 1903), pp. 115-6:
The forces of nature pay no respect to what we call good and evil. Prosperity does not uniformly follow virtue; nor are defeat and failure necessary consequences of vice. Certain virtues -- temperance, industry, and things within reasonable limits -- command their reward. Sensuality, idleness, and waste, commonly lead to ruin. 
But prosperity is consistent with intense worldliness, intense selfishness, intense hardness of heart; while the grander features of human character -- self-sacrifice, disregard of pleasure, patriotism, love of knowledge, devotion to any great and good cause -- these have no tendency to bring men what is called fortune. They do not even necessarily promote their happiness; for do what they will in this way, the horizon of what they desire to do perpetually flies before them. High hopes and enthusiasms are generally disappointed in results; and the wrongs, the cruelties, the wretchednesses of all kinds which for ever prevail among mankind -- the shortcomings in himself of which he becomes more conscious as he becomes really better -- these things, you may be sure, will prevent a noble-minded man from ever being particularly happy.